Saturday, November 24, 2007

Brunch at Jar

After an evening of fancified sushi, I needed a Sunday morning of serious fressing. So we went to Jar, which has a reputation as a foodie’s steakhouse despite this description’s oxymoronic implications. As a rule, I avoid steakhouses because I’d rather go to Soot Bull Jeep or Fatburger than drop a bill on an overcooked steak in a stuffy room filled with the usual assortment of country clubbers, white-collar criminals, yachtsmen, syndicators, and corporate drones. But Jar’s executive chef, Suzanne Tracht, comes from that royal Waters-begets-Silverton/Peel/Goin lineage, and with the lovable and genetically hungry Artie in town, I had a good opportunity to return to another quality restaurant in the neighborhood.

Jar began the brunch with a large wedge of coffee cake for the table. The cake was denser than I expected, topped with nuts and very good. Artie thought it needed more cinnamon, perhaps because the familiar swirl didn’t traverse the wedge, or maybe it just needed more cinnamon. Regardless, I liked the cake’s moist consistency.

We had a tacit agreement with the affable waiter: he would recommend the better dishes, and we would tolerate his confusing us for Georgianne Walken. So Artie and I split the corn pancakes, chilaquiles, and pot roast hash, while Marisa got the lobster benedict.

I have asked my wife to share her thoughts on her brunch:

In an effort to balance the scales of kashrut and make up for other nice neighborhood Jewish girls who, unlike me, don’t have the presence of mind or fortitude of spirit to enjoy a little traif, I ordered the lobster benedict, sans the lobster béarnaise. (I maintain that béarnaise is an utterly repulsive concept, though excellent fodder for Mel Brooks jokes). The lobster benedict came in its usual form atop an English muffin with a poached egg. But where most restaurants use Canadian bacon (or what I call “ham”), Jar uses Cantonese-inspired Char Sui pork as well as some “pea tendrils,” or soggy greens. Sweet and smoky, the Char Sui has a flavor preferable to the favored meat of Saskatoon; but unfortunately, it dominated the dish’s other, milder flavors. I ended up taking the dish apart, forsaking the desiccated English muffin and grazing on the eggs, Char Sui, lobster, and pea tendrils. I could barely muster more than a few bites. Despite the glorious self-righteousness that comes along with a low-carb breakfast, I felt somewhat cheated by the whole experience. Thankfully, Stevie and Artie were happy to share their bounty, leading me off the path of virtue and down the road of excess, right to the palace of wisdom where there are platters of absolutely delicious corn pancakes waiting for the hung-over glutton in all of us. I do loves me some Jar. You know you love me. XOXO, Gossip Girl – ahem, I mean, Marisa

The pancakes were not only the first serving of such that I’ve found edible in years; they were actually very good. Owing to their excellent batter, the pancakes were light and had a fresh baker’s quality. The kernels of corn were inside the pancakes and added an element of sweetness which obviated the need for maple syrup. These pancakes bore no gustatory resemblance to the thin starchy bricks served in homes and diners that had previously soured me on the Sunday staple.

The chilaquiles, essentially Latino matzoh brie, were infinitely better than the Jewish version. Serving a dressed up version of the classic dish, Jar fried and then layered strips of tortillas with eggs, salsa, shredded roasted pork, and crème fraiche. Why Jews have excluded roasted pork from the Passover standard (and then served it only once a year) is an enduring mystery. Suffice it to say, once roasted pork and salsa are added to the recipe and matzah is replaced with tortillas, the outcome is bound to be good. And it was.

The star of the brunch was the pot roast hash, a jumble of brisket, eggs, potatoes, onions, mushrooms and served with superfluous coffee gravy in a gravy boat. Jar annoyingly anointed its pot roast a “signature” dish, a conceit that I would expect only from eateries listed on the NYSE like Morton’s. Hash is leftover meat sautéed with vegetables, potatoes--whatever is around really--and in the hands of Suzanne Tracht, it was delicious. The brisket was most flavorful, much more so than the pork in the chilaquiles, and there was no sense that it was sautéed. It was soft and tender as opposed to the traditional crispy, and thus retained its essence as a pot roast. The eggs were intermixed into the center of the large portion, and it all blended together messily, which is to say seamlessly. The dish was a hash after all, not an omelet, and it impelled our enjoyable visit to Jar the next week for dinner to try the actual pot roast.

Jar has an impeccably designed dining room and bar which captures its modern steak house raison d’être. (Even when I was a just barely more pretentious undergrad studying philosophy with a bad habit of mining the depths of the thesaurus, I was self-conscious about using such an obviously heinous term like “raison d’être” in a paper. Not anymore, especially since I am Heinous. Just try to confute my views on Jar.) Jar’s designer, Brett Witke, raided one of those retro-modern furniture galleries along Beverly and imposed a great clean look on the place. The room’s walls consist of polished brown wood paneling which give the room a sense of tradition. They link Jar to proud, if mediocre anachronisms such as Taylor’s Steakhouse, and forewarn that creamed spinach will be served. But the wood paneling’s lighter tone and variations, the modern decorative artwork affixed thereto and the dark and wide hanging convex lamps splayed throughout the ceiling signify an updating of the whole steakhouse concept. While the muted light and lack of windows can induce mild claustrophobia during the dinner hours, the natural light at brunch was quite pleasant.

8225 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles

(323) 655-6566

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